Did Football Team Steal, Use Opponent’s Armband With Plays On It?

November 5, 2010 / Football

Manchester football coach Marco Pizzoferrato said Thursday that Southington coach D.J. Hernandez was “unethical” and “cheated” in his team’s 28-14 victory Oct. 22 at Memorial Field in Manchester.

Pizzoferrato’s allegation came after Manchester High School wide receiver Marquis Jimenez lost his armband with the team’s coded plays on it (by color and number) late in the first half.

“Southington somehow got it and used it,” Pizzoferrato said Thursday. “When our quarterback [Seth DeValve] called the play, D.J. looked down at his clipboard at the arm band, said the play into his headset and then their defensive coaches yelled what was coming to their defense. You can see it on the game films.”

One recourse for Manchester is to file protests with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and Connecticut State High School Coaches Association. Pizzoferrato said he wants to do this. Manchester Principal Kevin O’Donnell said the school “is exploring what direction we should go.”

“That game is over,” Hernandez said. “What’s in the past is in the past. The Southington football program and the community are first-class, from the faculty, to the water boys, to the coaches, to the football players.”

Southington High School athletic director Eric Swallow said, “I really don’t have any comment. I’ll leave it at that.”

Pizzoferrato had plenty to say.

“I’m disgusted,” he said. “It’s very upsetting because what’s the message to our players, that it’s all right to cheat, that there’s no penalty for that? After the game, our coaches refused to shake hands with their coaches. I confronted D.J. about using the armband after the game, and he didn’t say anything about it. I know I have the truth on my side.”

Pizzoferrato said that Hernandez’s using the plays from Jimenez’s armband, also known as a “wrist coach,” weakened his team’s offense.

“We operate best in the no-huddle where Seth can look over the defense, see blitz possibilities and call audibles,” Pizzoferrato said. “He’d call a play and they knew exactly what it was. When we realized that, we had to go back to our regular huddle. It definitely hurt us, hurt our flow and changed our whole team’s mentality of the game.”

The game was tied 14-14 early in the third quarter. Manchester (5-2) didn’t score in the last 20 ½ minutes of the second half. Southington is 6-1.

“I’m not saying we would have won, if this had not happened,” Pizzoferrato said. “What I am saying is that what he did was unethical. He cheated. It would have been interesting to see how we would have done if the playing field was level. … I know there will be some coaches who’ll say about this armband thing, ’Hey, all’s fair in love and war.’ So what’s the message to everyone, especially our young people? ’You cheated, no problem.’ Where’s the discipline? Why is this condoned? Not me. Cheating is cheating. Period.”

Wethersfield coach John Campanello said that a player’s losing his armband is very unusual.

“Whether to use it or not depends on what values each coach has,” he said. “Some may use it, and it’s a question of whether those coaches can live with themselves. Me, I’d give it back to the player who lost the armband or back to the other team.”

Pizzoferrato remembered when he was the defensive coordinator at Plainville for a game at Northwest Catholic in 2001. “A defensive formation sheet was found in the locker room, and one of our players gave it to me,” he said. “. . . I threw it away. That’s the only time it happened to me. I think most coaches would have done that or put it in his pocket and give it to the opposing coach after the game.”

As for a possible protest to the CIAC against Southington, Pizzoferrato said: “I’m not demanding a forfeit, but if a win [for Manchester] because of a forfeit loss for Southington happens, so be it. I want what he did exposed so bigger eyes can watch him and that program down the road. I don’t want this to happen to another team ever again.”

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